Every day after kindergarten, Julianna Pimentel’s school bus driver dropped her off at day care. But one recent afternoon in December, there was a substitute bus driver and Julianna never made it to day care.
In what might be a parent’s worst nightmare, the day care facility contacted Julianna’s father, Gilberto, and let him know that the bus driver passed by the day care but didn’t stop and Julianna didn’t get off the bus. Frantic, her father called the school to find out where his daughter might be, but there was no answer. It was a very cold winter day and nearly rush hour.
Gilberto Pimentel and his wife went out looking for Julianna. When Gilberto received a phone call from a sheriff’s deputy, he expected the absolute worst. He told local news that “his heart froze.”
Thankfully, the deputy on the other end had good news: They had Julianna and although she was a little shaken up, she was OK.
But what happened? Why didn’t Julianna ever make it to the day care?
It turns out that the substitute bus driver asked Julianna where her house was and dropped her off there.
Obviously, since no one was home and the kindergartener knew she was supposed to be at day care until one of her parents came to get her, she began walking toward the day care center—which was nearly a mile away from her home—down a busy highway.
In an incredible best-case scenario, private investigator Jane Holmes who often works on missing-children cases, was driving down the highway and spotted the little girl.
When Holmes and her passenger found Julianna, she was crying and had already walked about a quarter mile from her home. She wasn’t wearing a coat.
Holmes rolled down her window to ask the little girl if she was OK, and Julianna sobbed from the side of the road that she had lost her family. Holmes had a dashboard camera that captured the whole encounter. At first, Holmes says she thought Julianna might be a runaway. When Julianna pointed out her house to Holmes and her passenger, they didn’t know whether the home was safe or not, so they drover her to the sheriff’s office.
Julianna’s father arrived at the sheriff’s office and thankfully, she was safe and sound. The substitute bus driver has since been fired over the incident.
About a week later, on Christmas Eve, Holmes wanted to make sure Julianna was OK, so she stopped by the Pimentel’s home with a doll as a gift.
As a private investigator dealing with missing-child cases, Holmes told the local news, “We don’t [normally] come in until they’ve disappeared or are found dead.”
Holmes and the Pimentels are all thankful for the happy ending.
"Something could have happened and far worse could have been done," Gilberto Pimentel told an Atlanta NBC news affiliate. "We're not in a safe world; things happen all the time. You hear difficult stories out there and I just thank God that I got the chance to hold my daughter again."